The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car in Chamonix will blow your mind! This incredible gondola ride, from the top station of Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix (3842m) in France over to the top station of Pointe Helbronner in Italy (3466m) , is nothing short of spectacular and is hands down one of the best things to do in Europe.
Yep you heard right – this gondola crosses over from France to Italy!
OK lets get the bad news out of the way first. Yikes – it’s expensive. Tickets DO cost a lot. However, below we give you 9 good reasons why the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car in Chamonix is definitely worth the money. In our opinion, as long as the weather is clear and the sky blue, this incredible glacial experience is definitely worth the splurge.
First of all – lets describe the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car and what it is in comparison to the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Lots of visitors get confused and actually a lot of visitors to Chamonix don’t even know the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car even exists.
What is the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car?
The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car is situated in the town of Chamonix deep in the heart of the French Alps. Chamonix, a town celebrated for it extreme alpinism, sits in the shadow of the highest mountain in Western Europe – Mont Blanc (4,810m).
Visitors to Chamonix can witness some truly spectacular sightseeing. One being to take a cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (translated as ‘noon needle’ due to the lightning conductor on top of the station).
The Aiguille du Midi station (3842m) is the nearest point that tourists can get to Mont Blanc. There’s a restaurant and a café up there, as well as Stepping into the Void, a glass box that you can walk into … hanging over an abyss. There, staff will happily take a photo of you. Vertigo suffers be warned!
You can read our whole post on visiting the Aiguille du Midi here.
So, what is the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car?
The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car connects the top station of Aiguille du Midi over to the top station of Pointe Helbronner (3466m) in Italy (Punte Helbronner in Italian).
Yes, for those of you that might not know, Chamonix valley sits on the triangular border of France, Italy and Switzerland. Mont Blanc actually straddles two countries – France and Italy, where it is affectionately known as Monte Bianco.
The above map gives a good idea of the layout. I’m not sure why Monte Bianco seems to be entirely in Italy! I can only think that the Italians designed this illustration 🙂 However, it’s a good illustration to show you the layout of the cable car system. You can clearly see the first two cable cars on the right from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi and then the set of three gondolas spanning over to Punte Helbronner (with the thicker black line) is the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car.
You can choose to just take the cable car over to Helbronner, take a walk around the viewpoint, visit the crystal museum or have a coffee and bite to eat in the café and return to the Aiguille du Midi.
Or you can choose a special ticket called Trans-Mont-Blanc where you can go all the way down to Italy by taking the Skyway gondola after the Panoramic gondola down to the Pavillion (mid station on the Italian side) and then further down near to Courmayeur.
The Trans-Mont-Blanc journey is a total of 5 cable cars and the ticket includes a return bus journey through the Mont Blanc tunnel back to Chamonix.
For this option, you WILL NEED YOUR PASSPORT as you will pass through the Italian border before returning through the Mont Blanc tunnel.
Note: The Trans-Mont-Blanc pass is not being offer for the summer of 2020. See the end of the post if you want to arrange this separately.
How do I access the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car?
To access the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car you need to first take the Aiguille du Midi cable car up. This involves two cable cars. The first cable car starts at the Plan d’Aiguille which is a great start point for several hikes – my favourite being the hike to the Montenvers/Mer de Glace glacier. It’s also possible to stay at the Refuge du Plan D’Aiguille. We stayed there for my birthday last year. Staying at altitude in refuges in Chamonix is always an awesome experience.
The second cable car takes you up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. When you exit the cable car you’ll walk over a bridge – the ticket booth for the Panoramic is at the end of the bridge on your left. If you hadn’t thought about buying a ticket at the bottom (only ever available in very good weather) then you can purchase your ticket here.
Note: The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car only runs in the summer and is very weather dependant. Tickets cannot be reserved in advance due to it’s heavy dependance on the weather.
9 Reasons why the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car is totally worth the expense!
It’s pretty cool to be able to cross into Italy on a gondola. Surely a James Bond film needs to be filmed here. Well actually a James Bond film has been filmed in Chamonix (The World is Not Enough 1999) although not on these actual gondolas.
Once you’ve crossed to Helbronner in Italy, it’s even possible to take the rotating Skyway Monte Bianco gondola to the Italian village of La Palud, just north of Courmayeur. A most impressive way to get to Italy!
Visitors to the Aiguille du Midi can only marvel over at the icy terrain. Those who take the Panoramic will travel as low as 300 metres ABOVE the glacier, getting a bird’s eye view of gaping crevasses and ice seracs.
Travel for 5km each way to the Helbronner and back over the Vallée Blanche and Glacier Géant glaciers. Spot tiny ant like mountaineers roped up trekking over the ice. It’s a hive of activity!
See both sides of Mont Blanc! Mont Blanc on the French side looks very different from the Italian side, plus the views of Mont Tacul (the nearest snow dome to the gondola in front of Mont Blanc) is memorising as you trundle past on your gondola.
Hikers – it’s a perfect way to start a 6 day itinerary of the Tour du Mont Blanc from Italy …. if the weather is favourable!
Go the extra mile! The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car is much less frequently taken by visitors who go up to the Aiguille du Midi. Why? One – a lot of visitors don’t really know about it and two, it’s very weather dependent so it’s often closed.
Marvel at the engineering! No helicopters were used, and all the workers were chosen among locals and alpine guides. It took four years of construction before service began in 1958.
The cable cars go through a space carved in a rock called the Gros Rognon station (3,536 m) half way on it’s journey over to Helbronner.
The cable car doesn’t stop here, it contains the counterweights of the fixed cables and the rails bending the horizontal direction of the cables by some 8° to the right.
The cable car slows down and then whizzes down the next section – it’s pretty cool!
Buy tickets 3 days in advance online for the Aiguille du Midi to get 20% off. Given how expensive the tickets are, especially if you’re buying the family pass, this is a great saving.
It’s not possible to book ahead and get the discount for the Panoramic cable car section as it only opens after weather conditions have been assessed every morning. However, if you’ve already bought the Aiguille du Midi discounted pass, you can just ‘top up’ the ticket for the extra Panoramic section when you get there if it’s operating.
Trans Mont Blanc price and booking
The Trans-Mont-Blanc ticket is not available in 2020, possibly due to Covid restrictions.
In 2019 the Trans-Mont-Blanc ticket cost €129 in 2019 for an adult. This includes 5 cable cars and a return bus ticket from Italy to Chamonix through the Mont Blanc tunnel.
The Trans-Mont-Blanc ticket cannot be reserved as the journey is heavily weather dependant and relies on the Panoramic/Helbronner section being open. Therefore tickets can only be bought on the day of the journey if all cable cars are open.
Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola price and booking
The Aiguille du Midi and Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola (Helbronner) prices for 2020 are:
Family pass: 300.80 €
One way ticket for adult: 81 €
Round-trip ticket for adult: 97 €
One way ticket for a child: 69 €
Round-trip ticket for a child: 82.50 €.
Free entry for children < 5 years.
You’ll only be able to purchase these tickets on the day as the Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola (Helbronner) only opens each morning if the weather has been assessed and confirmed as good weather.
You can book your Aiguille du Midi tickets 3 days in advance online for a 20% discount, which is not to be sniffed at if you are a family. However, make sure you look at the weather forecast in advance. There is no point in wasting money on the Aiguille if the weather is bad or it’s very cloudy. Intermittent cloud can be okay.
If you’re already up the Aiguille and you decide you’d like to go over to Italy and back again on the Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola, you can pay for the Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola up there at a specific cash desk. The extra tariff in 2020 is:
Adulte 30.50 €
Child/Senior 25.90 €
Free entry for children < 5 years.